Giving a Personal Garden Coach as a Gift For Christmas

Richmond Virginia Gardening Gifts

Wondering what to give that certain somebody, kid, friend, relative, co-worker, etc. for Christmas? See my link at www.Kevinsgarden.com for  purchasing a Personal Garden Coach as a gift. I’ve been given as a gift and auctioned off for years, either as a birthday, Christmas, and even by Realtors for their clients. Once, I was the “most wanted’ gift in the Chinese Christmas Game, if you know what that is.

Some folks just need that bit of confidence, to keep them dirty, and successfully growing or improving their outdoor living. Let’s get dirty!!

 

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Wait! Don’t Throw That Out!! Part XXVI ?

For over two decades I have been trying to get folks, either in the Water Gardening realm, to the Grow it Yourself people, NOT to toss out things that could be a sustainable “Growing Medium”. See my events about Seed Starting in Dryer Lint, shoes, pocketbooks, etc., if you forget. Even the “never before now always” composters are finding out about the gold they had been tossing out for ever. So now, again, the mysterious “Grow Bags”. I go to clients homes, and sometimes on trash or re-cycle days, and right there, right there, in their trash are the very things they are going to buy, the very thing, I am there to talk with them about. Growing stuff.

So here’s some of the things, I save, to grow in. Balcony Gardening, starting seeds, whatever. If I find it, I’ll grow in it. So should you!

First is an up-cycled store rack. Great for balcony Gardening. Balcony Garden 5

Ask your grocery store, if they are tossing any racks. Grow in it.

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Next is the “Grow Bags“. But FREE bags. Grocery Store wine bags, the ones they give you. There’s even a hanging Tomato Plant there. It is inside a pot with a slit and hole cut in it inside the bag for support. Just picture it upside down in the bag. Fill with soil. Same material the expensive bags are made of.

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Then we get to some other things like Onion Bags with Okra growing in it, Old water jugs with Tulips, some kind of canvas bags I found with Herbs, used clear salad containers, water bottles for cuttings, those clear zip up things that quilts, sheets come in make great Cold Frames or Hardening Off containers… Well, the list is very long. I even use my old spice containers for seed starting. Different spices, different holes, different seeds. And of course, there’s Dryer Lint for starting seeds.

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DSCN1393Dryer Lint Starting 2

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So what happens when I show up at a clients home anyway? First is the issues they contacted me about, and seasonal timing. A plan is made, instructions and education. After that, any concerns about future projects. Of course, if it can be re-used, it will be. Don’t go to the dump just yet. I may see the very thing in the pile you would need. Balcony Garden People can find a host of items everyday to up-cycle. Either with other tenants, or in the community trash. Everything will look like a container. If you think you need a Personal Garden Coach, then get one. Most, like myself, even do community groups like Apartments, Clubs, and Cul-de-sac classes.

Don’t forget to sign up for my Monthly Newsletter at http://www.Kevinsgarden.com. Email me your pics of your projects as well at Kevin@Kevinsgarden.com. You can also find me on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf-TfudVKyD56l_F77dH01A. Somewhere on my website I still have Outtakes if you need a laugh.

Grow Bags… Wait a Minute!!

Recycle Thing..

I have seen something lately that kinda disturbs me, and folks are falling all over it. These “Grow Bags” look like the latest “fad” out there. But I’m kinda wondering about something in the marketing. They are claimed to be, “Degradable“… What’s that? Fall apart soon? So, I saw them at a box store, and found one open. I played with it, felt it, and remembered about something I had . And man are they expensive. But I had a notion, that I had seen and felt this material before. So I went home, and found the “thing” that I had saved for something up-cycled… I have a few. I knew I saved them for something, and of course, something, gardening.. I have a video on Youtube showing one. Free is simple. Look in your kitchen and see things different to use as a growing in thing!!!!

Up-cycled Grow bag video.

Getting Garden Ready

It’s Time!

Time to start thinking of that plot again, are you going bigger, same, smaller? Don’t know where to start again? If you need help in planning, correcting, or just don’t have time, I will be your Personal Garden Coach. Hiring me for any gardening advice or help can allow you to achieve better results, Water Gardens, starting a community garden, new DIY projects, garden beds, containers, last years problems, indoor seed starting, and the list goes on. Everyone has different situations, and as a Personal Garden Coach, it’s my job to get you on the right track. Hiring me is a better way than wondering if, the whole season. I am available within 10 miles of Glen Allen, Va., for personal consultation, a little help, or just more gardening education and ideas. Fees vary from one-on one to groups of 10 or more. Have a community room or a central home? Groups are cheaper, and everyone gets answered.

If you are interested in my help, email me at Kevin@Kevinsgarden.com . It’s time to start!!

Seed Starting Time

Seed Starting Time!!
Yes, It’s that time again. Days are getting longer, Seed Catalogs are in the mail, and we are, OFF!! Only a few short months, and we are in the ground, and there are some chores to do beforehand outside, but for now, we shall grow, something.
Racking, table top, pantries, under the stairs, in front of the window, doesn’t matter where, it’s time start looking for that out-of-the-way spot. There are several options, several methods, and the seed catalogs are in the mail. Some of you already have your first shipments. Some are “Old Hat”, others, “new-at-it”. Let’s talk basics.
First is where. Finding that “spot” that is out of the way, not near a cold entry, and not under a heat vent. Somewhere that is a constant temperature above 54 degrees. Seems chilly but it will work. If you know Forsythia, it blooms when the soil temperature is 54 degrees at 4 inches for 5 days, and we have gained 2 hours of daylight. Most germination occurs soon after. I have my main rack in the laundry room. 4 shelves, 2 light fixtures. Plenty of room. As I do laundry, I tend to the seedlings. I have seen nice set ups in an unused pantry as well. The “Pantry Thing” usually works great with the Apartment Folks, or in a big front window or patio doors. Just make sure to turn them weekly.
What to use to start the seedlings. Egg cartons, plastic salad containers, newspaper cups, toilet paper tubes, old plant flats, bottoms of milk or soda bottles, store bought starter flats. As long as it fits under the lighting fixture and holds soil or dryer lint… Also, how do you sow the seeds? I save empty spice shakers. They all have different sized holes, and there are different sized seeds. I get the flats ready, put the seeds in the shaker, and “season” the flats. So much easier to shake and sift.

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Next, lets chat about proper lighting. My fixtures are 2 gang, 4 foot florescent fixtures. I never use high dollar “Grow Lights”. I have  one Cool White and one Daylight bulb in each. With that combo, you will get the color spectrum of light from reds and oranges for germination to the blues for leaf production through photosynthesis as they emerge. And way cheaper. They are on a timer, 8 hours on 16 off per cycle, 2 inches above the seed flats. As they grow, I raise the lighting fixtures. Remember, if you only have a window area, make sure to turn the flats weekly 180 degrees, they will be doing that “lean to the light” thing, making them leggy. Notice the difference in color in the bulbs below? This tabletop rig is about $7.00 in PVC pipe and the light fixture is around $17.00 including bulbs. No need to glue it together so it can be easily disassembled for storage.

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1979500_292175280932085_201411916_n    This is a FREE rack from a store I found that I currently use.

Always a question from my readers is “What soil?” Here’s the deal about germination. No Potting Mix. No NPK. Just about any seedling, as it emerges from the seed, produces 2 leaves, which are not “true leaves” but seeking light to perform photosynthesis. The root does not want any food yet, not until 3 to 4 leaves emerge, that’s when they are forming feeder roots. I have used straight Peat Moss in the past, but in the last 4 years, I save all my dryer lint in coffee cans, and use last seasons seeds to start. That equals FREE… As the seedlings get those 3 to 4 leaves, then I feed with home made Manure Tea that I start “steeping” when I see mostly 2 leaves. And I always feed from the bottom, so the nutrient is wicked up through the dryer lint, and the roots have to go deeper to get to it. I make my plants work for it!! More root, more bloom! Below is a comparison between a starter soil and dryer lint.

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Insects and fungus. Always a particular when starting seeds indoors. One of the things I always do is spray home made Insecticidal Soap in the starter medium for Fungus Gnats. I have also used a Bt solution as a topical spray if needed. To alleviate fungus conditions, a small fan about 5 feet away on low will help there. If you are using those Seed Starter Greenhouse kits, a pencil under one corner of the lid helps greatly for ventilation, or even a small fan.
The first seeds you want to start indoors are Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant, Lavender and Onions. They take the longest. Most packet seed has that “Emergent” chart on the back. For example, if it takes 3 weeks to germinate, add 3 weeks to that, and then subtract that time from your last “Killing Frost Date” in your zone. That’s when you would start indoors. This time frame will give you a week to 10 days in the end to get them hardened off before planting. Hardening off is not only to get them climate adjusted, but also natural sunlight adjusted. This goes for your Perennials as well.
Forcing bulbs and late Winter cuttings is always a fun time. Hyacinth and Paperwhites, Forsythia, Dogwood, Japonica Camelias, Azalea, give gardeners the “illusion” that Spring is coming. Winter has a bit to go yet, but my vases and grow racks tell me otherwise. When my Forsythia pops indoors, seed racks are planted.

Simple enough. Next month we will cover the “emergence of the seedlings”, and more info on the care after you see them, then the fun begins.

 

Garden Center Clearance Time?

Seed Catalogs are in the mail, compost is cooking, dreams and plans for the coming seasons are dancing in gardeners heads. All consuming our thoughts and making us just a bit distant to our friends. I myself have been out to the spent paradise, overlooking it’s new abilities. It’s Winter demise is actually picturesque to me, and I still get that Horticultural Therapy. I have my phone with me, looking at the pictures from last year as I am out there, planing.

But the big picture, the leftover products at box stores. The items in the overheads and last 3 things on a shelf, prices falling because they are discontinued from the new seasons product lines. Vendors don’t want them back, most times, and the store receives no credit. They get what they can, as the price tumbles, then toss in the compactor when the price is low enough to take the hit. Where does this leave you?

If you go to a big box store, and see the clearance items that are on the, let’s say, “Pot Wall”, the yellow “was/now” stickers, maybe there is a deal, or just the thing you were looking for. Same as the Hose Aisle, Bird Seed, Tools, and bagged goods, maybe even the Hard Scape Aisle. But in any case, with a little detective work, you can find some better deals. These aisles haven’t been as high maintained since late October, because of the Christmas Crash, and most of those other spots are considered “out of season”… Are ya seein’ it yet? OK, then here’s more. Most all of the merchandise for those aisles have been consolidated to the overhead where they belong on the racks. MOST box stores have been thru an inventory lately, so all the boxed freight in the overhead is plainly marked. Write down the SKU  or item number you see on a weathered box, search for it on the shelves, if you don’t see it, find an employee with one of those fancy phones and ask what the price is for that number. Maybe it’s not exactly what you want, maybe it will do, maybe, it’s a heck of a find.

On the fertilizer aisles, either large bags or the smaller boxed, check there too. Most, again, most of those stores can’t toss hazmat items away, and if it has gone to $.01, they most likely give it to you, it costs them a huge amount to send in a hazmat truck, away… Check the Chemical Wall too, same thing. Look in the overhead for anything that says, “Promo” anything. Then find that kid with that crazy phone.

It’s Gardening Deal time at the box stores. Right now, Christmas is on final clearance, there are Storage Events happening along with Vanities, etc, so no Gardening stuff is coming in yet. They aren’t even thinking about March. So give it a try, on the down-lo, see if you find some real deal goodies. You may even find some cheap racks in Flooring, and Light Fixtures in the Light Cloud. It’s time for deals folks!!

How Much $$ are YOU Saving?

Composting, Leaf Mold, and Saving Seeds

Some believe that as December hits, gardening has been well done. Not me. I’m still getting ready for late Winter. I said Late Winter, that’s March. This years garden was very late because of moving. I didn’t get the plot plowed until late July and it was in a rocky, clay, first time tilled spot. But I had “debris” that the last tenant just blew aside. I found some gold, and ate for free for the most part. Next year, all free.

My compost pile is doing very nice. My roommate and I are continuing to contribute to its mass. We have a simple coffee can on the counter, and most everything we don’t use, is in there. It’s amazing how I see my compost as “The other garden” as it grows. And, It’s free. Also, as the Summer Garden dwindled, all that green litter, went into it, again, free. Towards the end of Summer, veggies were growing in it from seed, and Celery, Parsnip, Turnip end cuts were re-growing. That, lets me know it’s good stuff when it supports itself.

Compost (1)The pic doesn’t do it justice. From just a cleared out spot in the yard in July, you can now see it from the house an acre away. And it is all garbage to some, but gold to us. Funny that some folks who have been here just look at me and say, “You’re kidding right?” Nope, just a weekly trip out with that coffee can.

 

 

 

For a lot of people leaves are such a misunderstood item. I have always used mine, no matter where I’ve lived. I recently wrote an article for Farmers Almanac about Raking vs Mulching leaves. Just makes sense to re-use them, they are free too. When I’m done with what I need, I give the rest away. They are already mulched, and ready to be amended into a garden or use as mulch. So much nutrients in those free leaves. And, you can’t buy them at a box store. Think about how a tree in the woods is fed. No one goes out there and tosses Miracle Gro at them. A tree drops its leaves all around its base for the most part and the leaves naturally compost into its feeder roots. As I mulch mine when they first start falling into my lawn, I am adding a valuable amendment into my lawn.

Leaf MoldAs they start falling harder, I start bagging with my mower, and save for my beds, especially the veggie garden. In around mid February, I will add as a top dress to the garden, and turn in about mid March, when I will “Solarize” that bed. Solarizing is cool, I have an article around here somewhere.

 

 

 

Saving seeds has always been a must for me. I don’t like buying them, especially now because of the GMO debacle. Towards the end of the seasons, I collect one or two veggies off each plant and save those seeds, herbs, I let bloom a bit, and save them, Fall crops just need to bolt, and there are seeds. I have them in individual marked zip-loc bags, and I am saving also, all my dryer lint thru the year for starting those Tomatoes and Peppers in late February indoors. Search for the dryer lint article or hit this link when I was on TV about it.

So as I wait for the coming season, I am already ahead in the wallet department. All of my efforts, just simple doings, will save me money, and I will eat free. From the size of my compost, seed allotment, leaf mold, which also has free nutrients, I will be around $200 ahead with free stuff. And, I know what is in all the materials I use. No chemicals, growth hormones, mystery stuff. I know what I am eating all the time. So can you. Truly organic is what you control. Just because the bag is labeled as such, it’s really only 85% “organic”. Read the ingredients, there is mostly another 15% missing….